Coase-Sandor Working Paper Series in Law and Economics

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Coase-Sandor Working Paper Series in Law and Economics


This Article explores the costs and benefits of one subset of continuous and discontinuous rules. These expressions are shown to be distinct from the familiar dichotomy expressed as standards versus rules, but they share the difficulty of dividing the world of law in two. Still, regulatory approaches that focus on discontinuities can often be made more continuous, and vice versa. A speed limit is discontinuous in the sense that one drives above or below (or within) the announced limit. But it is often made more continuous – even with more discontinuities – as when the stated limit is different for various kinds of vehicles. This Article works around these definitional problems to show that law often discourages useful disclosures by encouraging parties with information to offer continuous information in order to avoid after-the-fact lawsuits when specific disclosures prove to have inaccuracies. For example, it is common to hear or be warned that a medical procedure poses the risk of death, when the better-informed doctor or hospital could have given the precise percentages attached to various outcomes. Similarly, a corporation is on safe ground when it follows “generally accepted accounting principles,” when investors would have learned more from information about good and bad outcomes put in probabilistic terms. The Article works toward the suggestion that law might create a safe harbor in which probabilistic disclosures are protected when they are, or are certified to be, more useful than the ready alternative of fairly general disclosures.



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